I Want to Trust You, But I Don’t

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Photo credit Giulia Marotta 

I carry secrets.

Secrets I don’t tell anyone. Not even my husband.

Which I find unusual because I don’t consider myself secretive. They aren’t terribly scandalous secrets. Just parts of my soul that I keep to myself.

Because no matter how long we’ve been together, and despite what we’ve been through, this is all a house of cards. There’s no guarantee that any passing breeze won’t whip the foundation out from below. That I may reveal the wrong thing and cause the sort of tsunami no woman can control.

He’s never hit me. Never raised a hand to me.

But he could. And I don’t ever forget that. I’ve even warned him. The first several years especially I would remind him from time to time.

I will leave you if you hit me.

They are my kids.

He’s their father. He’s a good father. And not just in the earns a living for us way. Though he does work his ass off for us.

I mean in the ways that count. If one of his kids finds a new hobby, he’s all in. Something breaks? He’ll fix it. He brings home little surprises for them. There were times we had no money, but he still brought home surprises because he talked so much to others about his kids that if they had something to give away, they’d seek him out.

Here, the boys might like this.

Boxes of baseball cards and a beat up gaming chair. Headphones or some candy.

He goes to their games and events and jokes with their friends.

But they’re still my kids.

I refer to them that way when we argue.

He’s communicated to me how much that bothers him. Yet, I still call them mine. In a voice that cannot be mistaken.

It feels like an incantation. Some type of magical spell I cast over them. If they’re mine, it keeps them safe.

From whom, you wonder? I often wonder the same. And if I’m being honest . . .

From him.

From anyone, really. But yes, even from him.

I don’t believe him when he says I’m attractive.

I don’t believe any man who tells me that.

How can I be? I don’t look anything like the women in the ads, in the magazines, in the movies, in porn, in TV shows, on runways, on billboards, or anywhere else that women are on display.

That’s the ideal, right? The long legs and flat stomachs and perky tits. Fuck, I remember being in elementary school and reading the Little House series of books for the first time. I remember the way Laura watched as her mother and aunts readied themselves for a dance. Cinching corsets and bragging that Pa’s hands could still meet around his wife’s waist.

I remember the disappointment I felt alongside Laura as she grew into a young woman who lamented her appearance. She would never be willowy or pale or thin. Even then, Laura in the 1800’s and I in the fourth grade, we recognized the other category we were pushed into, beyond our control, for not meeting or exceeding society’s standard of the  ideal woman.

So no, I don’t believe him.

If the house is messy, it’s my fault. I take it all on, the guilt and feelings of not measuring up somehow. In some way. Even when I worked two jobs and volunteered as class mom to two kids in school so that I could feel I was still a part of their day, I’d come home and beat myself up that the house wasn’t more organized.

Clearly I couldn’t have it all.

That disarray revealed all the cracks in my facade. And weakness will never do. Not when you’re a woman trying to prove that somehow, some fucking way, you’ve got it all covered and dammit you’ve earned it.

No matter what it is.

I always feel I have to prove I’ve earned it.

The fact that he’s never asked me to . . . doesn’t seem to matter.

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A detailed response to this question posted on Facebook:

What are ways that you have difficulty trusting the men in your life that objectively have earned your trust? 

This isn’t about overtly horrible men, or even average men. Specifically how has your experience of misogyny made it difficult for you to form trusting bonds with men that you WANT to trust? What is your experience with that phenomenon? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your relationship to those men?

ONLY people who experience misogyny – and it’s on you to decide if you feel you qualify because some non-binary people do – should respond to this challenge.

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This Is What It Feels Like To Be “Grabbed By the Pussy” By Someone You Know

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Photo by Gage Skidmore

It doesn’t feel like sexual assault. Not right away. Because I knew those two guys.

I’d seen them almost every single day of my life since we started in Kindergarten together. Here we were in high school. So yeah, I knew them. I called them friends.

At first it feels like flirting. You find yourself in a room alone with them and they’re chatting, just the two of them. You take a seat and sit quietly until they start talking to you. You look up and find their eyes on you and their smirks so familiar.

They tell you how cute you look today and you blush a little and feel embarrassed because neither one of them has ever said something like that to you before.

It starts to feel like teasing when they zero in on the leggings you wore that day. When they start asking what the leggings look like against your ass if they were to lift your shirt and have a look. They wonder aloud to each other if they could see the outline of your pussy if you just lifted your shirt for them.

You think they’re just being jerks now and roll your eyes. They keep engaging you in conversation and you still think it’s all jokes and teasing, even as they start moving. Even as they get closer.

You even giggle when their fingers start pulling at your shirt. Tickling under the hem. The giggle sounds ridiculous to your own ears, that high nervous one you hate, and you hop up to move away. Still thinking they’re being ridiculous and playful.

It still doesn’t feel like sexual assault when you turn and realize you’re in a corner and they’re walking toward you, one on each side. You don’t have the sense yet to feel nervous, because you know these two guys. Have known them since Kindergarten.

You think this is still a game and that the fluttering in your stomach is from having so much attention on you. You’re young and naive and brainwashed enough to think this is just how guys are around girls. They get loud, and show-off, and grab.

A lot.

But the fluttering starts to feel like dread when the two guys don’t stop coming at you. When they walk all the way up to you, one on each side, so you feel sandwiched. When they pull at your shirt and one grabs your wrist and your shirt is up high enough now that your skin feels the breeze coming from the air conditioning vent above your head.

You still don’t think it’s assault, though. That isn’t the word that comes to mind in that moment. No, in that moment, when their hands seem to be everywhere . . . on your side, and brushing the underside of your bra, and on your ass, and then . . . yup . . . grabbing your pussy . . . the word assault doesn’t come to mind.

You wonder if you’d get in trouble for screaming. You wonder where your voice went because the general physical area from which your voice emits feels very dry and all you can manage to get out is an occasional breathy no or stop.

You wonder if you really know these guys at all and if they’ve changed over the years or were always like this and you were never unfortunate enough to be alone with them before now.

Even when you manage to push one away, and they’re laughing at you as you pull your shirt down and the teacher who was stuck on the phone in the office next door walks in, you don’t think assault.

You just quietly take a seat and smooth down your hair. You pick up your viola and start your lesson next to your teacher, all the while your heart hammering because when you glance up at them . . . they’re still smirking.

No, you don’t think assault. But those smirks no longer look friendly. Or even recognizable.

You don’t think assault, but you make sure, for the remainder of your time in high school, that you’re never again alone with either one of them. Especially if they are together.

You must not really believe it assault because you never tell on them. Never admit what happened. You convince yourself it was just flirting. Just boys being boys. They didn’t do any lasting damage, right?

I mean, the worst thing they did was just grab your pussy through your clothes.

So here’s the deal . . .

If you’re still defending that sick piece of shit, and still voting for him, and still thinking that his words have no bearing on how he’ll be in office, look around you.

Look at every woman or young girl you know and love.

Go ahead.

Look your mother in the eye. Your daughters. Your best friend. Your wife or girlfriend. Your sister. Your play partner. Your business partner. Your co-worker that you joke is your spouse because she’s the shoulder you lean on at work. Look at your grandmother if you’re lucky enough to still have her around. Your niece. Your cousin. The woman who rings up your groceries.

Even if you yourself are a woman and still defending that douchebag, take a good long look at the women around you.

They’ve been grabbed by the pussy.

It’s happened to at least one of them, if not most. They’ve been touched in a non-consensual way and talked themselves out of the word assault.

Because the guy who did it was a friend, was a co-worker, was kidding, was flirting, etc.

Now tell her why you think this fucking waste of space assbag of a human being should lead our country. Tell her his words don’t matter and won’t affect how he’ll lead or the person he’ll be in office. Tell her it won’t matter that girls and boys around the world will hear the disgusting things he says.

Go ahead. Tell her.

You’ve said it to Muslims, Mexicans, Latinos, African-Americans, immigrants, veterans, the mentally ill, women in general, but you never had to look them in the eye. Those are abstract concepts to you, I’m sure.

Tell HER. Then let me know how you still sleep at night.